No, I will not be talking about Manti Te’o or What’s-his-face-with-too-many-letters-in-his-name.
Instead, I will be talking about a blog I follow, not with any regularity, just once a month I remember it’s there and I go read all the updates. It’s the Warrior Eli Hoax Group, initially formed to expose a hoax regarding the Warrior Eli case (you can read back on that at the blog). Since then, blogstress Taryn Harper Wright and her team have uncovered a plethora of panhandling people. Some of the lies and drama were set up like a house of cards, once you noticed one lie or red flag, you saw that they were all wrong, and the whole thing comes tumbling down.
Some, however, are built up on such an intricately interwoven web of lies, that all I can do is marvel at the time and effort it must have taken to set it all up.
There are two cases in particular that blow my mind. One is ‘Chelsea Goldberg,’ and to be honest, this one is so ridiculous that I don’t know if I’ll even be able to do the story justice, so I’ll let you read through everything if you so choose. I’ll summarize the best I can:
‘Chelsea Goldberg’ has leukemia. She has several brothers and sisters who all kept up a blog to document her struggles. She also does not exist. The real Chelsea (whose last name I’m not including, just to stay out of any surrounding legal drama that may or may not be real) has two children of whom she doesn’t have custody, has a history of making up stories, and forging financial documents. There is currently a blog that directly states Ms. Wright is a liar, indicating that the author is Chelsea, but Chelsea tells Ms. Wright she did not create or write it (though the wording is nearly identical to one of the comments that one of Chelsea’s sockpuppets posted). Ms. Wright also received a cease and desist letter from a completely nonexistent law firm with verbiage similar to one that I just found online for DirectBuy, proving that it’s very simple to make it up, with a name that cannot be found anywhere, a phone number that no longer exists (though there was a voice mailbox at one point, according to Ms. Wright) and a street address that, as far as I can tell, doesn’t exist.
This person has gone through a lot of trouble to set up her scam. Ms. Wright’s research is very thorough, and she believes that the anti-WEHG and this “cease and desist notice” are not from the real Chelsea. Which means, either someone is trying to scam a scammer, or, possibly Chelsea is even more effed up than anyone realizes, and/or has people helping her. For instance, the letter didn’t come from the same state in which the real Chelsea lives. It is, however, the state that ‘Chelsea Goldberg’ was from.
Another story that amazes me, that had some recent comment updates, is that of Jessica Friend. She is 18, with Hodgkins, began losing her hair before she even started chemo, broke up with her boyfriend but while in the midst of barely hanging on to her life, managed to start dating someone else. Oh, and when she wasn’t busy pretending to be her mom with this cancer story, she was busy pretending to be pregnant and looking for potential adoptive couples. She reached out on twitter to talk to other girls who had done the same. She took this one so far that she contacted couples who were looking to adopt. One of the commenters (who was one of the people that Jess contacted) explained that Jess said she was in a teenage mother group at her school that was run by the school social worker, and that the social worker was going to help her with the adoption. When they referred Jess to their agency, she made up a gmail account with the social worker’s name and emailed the couple and the agency. This couple was suspicious (why not use the school email, right?) and looked up the social worker’s real name and address on the school website, forwarding her the email. They ended up speaking to school officials, and filing a police report.
Let me just repeat this for you: She contacted couples. To offer them a child. That didn’t exist.
Of all the fakers and scam artists Ms. Wright has outed, this is by far the worst. The other ones, yes, they are damaging to people’s emotions and psyche, and even more so to parents who do have children who are ill, who are watching their own children battle something that they cannot protect them from. Then there are the ones who set up fundraising accounts and intentionally defraud people for money.
But this… she led people to believe that she had a child that they would be able to raise. Fucking disgusting.
So, why do I call this genius? Because just think what these people could accomplish if they turned this into something creative! Stephen King is obviously wacked in the head, but instead of a psychotic serial killer, he turns his thoughts into novels. If these girls (and it really is mostly girls) could just use these storylines for actual stories, and put the work into a real entertainment source, they could get the attention they obviously crave, but instead of pity and sympathy, get admiration and respect.
Every time I read these, I think of my own “scam” that I once ran, ten years or so ago, to increase exposure for relatively meaningless online awards. I created ten different emails between yahoo, Hotmail, and I think msn to correspond to the ten made-up people in this group I was in. The group was real. The names given were not. Then I created a community blog page (on livejournal? I honestly don’t even remember) and accounts for each of the names, and even created a few posts, this was supposed to be our group’s main chatting space, to give the names some legitimacy. I spent an afternoon all of this, altering the post-time on everything, so that they looked like they’d been done over time, a new post every week or so, nothing long, just a summary of what the actual group did that week or events that were coming up, and I distinctly remember the very first post being like ‘welcome to the new page’ or something, so that it wouldn’t look suspicious when the posts only went back by a few months. Then, I would use one of the sockpuppets to nominate myself, and then I would pick two more to do the actual voting, in addition to my own legitimate vote. In short, I voted for myself four times. Now, I didn’t always win, so it’s not like I gained that unfair of an advantage. Also, it was a simple online form, so I’m sure I’m not the only one who voted with multiple emails, though I may have been the only one who went so far to cover their tracks. I kept up the appearance with the group blog thing, and used the multiple emails every time. Other than that, I had no interaction with anyone with these fake names. Ever. After maybe six months, it just got to ridiculous. I still got my 4 votes by using the email to vote, but I wasn’t trying to create an online presence for those names anymore.
And once again, this was to win – and just to get my name mentioned more often – online awards. The award itself is a banner graphic. That’s is. No cash money, no tangible award. These people are spending weeks, months, some of them years, forging relationships under these fake identities. These people, the things they go after…. it’s appalling.
But like I said, the effort some people put into these things is staggering. In the hoax that started it all, Emily had those rubber bracelets made up that said Warrior Eli. I can’t imagine what they cost her. I don’t know how many she got or where she got them from, and I’m sure the more she bought, the cheaper they each got, but she invested serious money into her hoax (anything over fifteen dollars is serious, in my opinion – and I know she spent at least that: I bought 12 bracelets once from a site for our football crew, close to $50).
Seriously, I need to know what is happening in some of these brains.